Brendon Guichet HIST 1020 John Muir paper In a lifetime of exploration, writing, and passionate political activism, John Muir made himself America’s most expressive spokesman for the mystery and majesty of the wilderness. A crucial figure in the creation of our national parks system and a visionary forecaster of environmental awareness, he was also a master of natural description who suggested with exceptional power and intimacy the landscapes of the American West. The Boyhood of a Naturalist” is Muir’s account of growing up by the sea in Scotland, of coming to America with his family at age eleven, and of his early fascination with the natural world. As a boy, Muir was “fond of everything that was wild” and took great pleasure in the outdoors. He explored nature with an intellect of no other and articulated a great concern toward animals and everything that surrounded him. In 1849, Muir and his family immigrated to Wisconsin. The great forests of Northern United States captivated him and fueled his desire to learn more. In Wisconsin Mr.
Muir commenced in farming along with his brothers and father. The whole family had to work very hard to help clear the land and run the farm. A lot of the responsibility fell to John as the oldest son, since his father was often away doing church work. He had a great interest in and love of nature and all living things. “Of the many advantages of farm life for boys, one of the greatest is the gaining a real knowledge of animals as fellow-mortals, learning to respect them and love them, and even to win some of their love”. Another way that Muir relates his writing to the surrounding nature is the way he loved his animals.
John was extraordinary when it came to recounting his occurrences with nature and animals. John writes, “She was the most faithful, intelligent, playful, affectionate, human-like horse I ever knew, and she won all our hearts”. John even appreciated women especially his mother by studying birds. He understood everything his mother did for him especially when he says, “to feel that it in no way differed from the divine mother-love of a woman”. Even though John related his works through nature, animals, and women he also examined the class structure in a different way.
During this time period many gender and race issues were prevalent. We are able to see John’s perceptions on many class, race, and gender matters when he says, “they have no rights that we are bound to respect, and were made only for man to be petted, spoiled, slaughtered, or enslaved”. When John and his family migrated over to Wisconsin, they had servants who worked on the farm for them. This was not uncommon as to slavery was legal during this time period and no one questioned this. John, his father, and brothers traveled first to make sure they had a house to stay in.
Before winter came, the house was ready for occupancy, and in November, Mrs. Muir and the rest of the family arrived from Scotland. Gender differences were very common and John understood this. John was surrounded by the males everyday doing farming activities, while the women stayed inside cooking and cleaning. In a fairly common custom of earlier day morning and evening family worship, the Muir family regularly practiced religion on a weekly basis. John’s father was very harsh on him and made John study the bible everyday. He went to Sunday school, bible lessons, and church all through out the week.
John writes, “father carefully taught us to consider ourselves very poor worms of the dust, conceived in sin”. In conclusion, John Muir used his perceptions and surrounding by connecting them in his work with nature. John showed us that we can accept nature’s distinctiveness as one of our own. He showed us that at a young boy he still understood gender, class, and race differences. John later on became one of the most respected natural writers that ever lived. We can all learn life lessons from John and his experiences he had as a young boy.